The Function Complex

When I go out, I sometimes think about the way I would get there. To decide between taking the bus to school or to drive to school in my old and beat-to-Hell 1989 BMW325i. Theoretically, I could also decide to walk to school given that it’s only about a 15 minute walk for the average person. And since Davis is also a “bicycle-friendly” campus, I could bike to campus. I am a lazy person, I’ll admit to you all those who will read this post. My laziness in addition to the amount of time I have to sleep in the mornings that would be sacrificed if I biked or walked, essentially give me two choices; both palettable and unpalettable at the same time. And it is between these two choices in which I attempt to daily analyze the design of both the school bus and my car.

Victor Papanek in his book “Design for the Real World,” he defines the function complex as having six different aspects: need, aesthetics, use, method, association, and telesis. It is through the aspects of the function complex that indicates to me, that both the school bus and my 1989 BMW in the greater scheme of things fail. The first aspect of the function complex, need, indicates that though there is a desire for easier and quicker transportation to classes, these desires don’t necessarily make it a “need.” It is in my own laziness that I rely upon these methods in getting to campus whether it be someone essentially “working” for me to get to my final destination or “showing myself off” as some dream-like status of being from an “old-money” family in order to impress others who may not have the same things as me. Aesthetically-speaking and also through association, the bus presents issues regarding comfort (crowd-size, unpleasant odors, etc), safety, time, and having my life being placed in someone else’s hands. As a tool, the bus is representative as being “reliable” and a more affordable method of getting from point A to point B (at least in Davis, students can ride for free). Currently, the school bus is representative of the desire for a more cost-efficient mode of transportation.

Both my 1989 BMW and the bus that’s taken to get to school both fail within the context of the function complex in my opinion because of the method behind the building, operation, and technology of these designs. First off, both are not as fuel-efficient as I want them to be; making them very costly options to continue using in the long-run. Additionally, the materials used to build these machines can often be problematic when shortcuts are taken. Shortcuts taken when it comes to building the engine or the brakes have proven to have deadly consequences. The operation of these machines can also be problematic, when someone does not know how to deal with problems should they come up while in operation. Also, impairedness of any kind further heightens risks of disaster as a result of human error. Over the past couple of years, new technology that contribute to increasing safety measures have been made available in the market, they are not yet affordable to the poor college student or the average worker. The issue with the car or the bus, is not solely based upon it looks or even its age, but about whether or not it is safe and reliable to use. For the most part, vehicles have not proven to be a fool-proof and safe way of getting from one destination to another. And until there are better and more affordable safety measures put into place, I should probably sleep and awake earlier and make that long trek to campus by foot.

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